Sleep is something that I have been focusing on personally for some time. Even if you have everything else in the world right (like exercise, diet, relationships, etc.) and you failed to get adequate sleep you’d be anything but healthy.
Plenty of people say “You can sleep when you’re dead” in the pursuit to get more out of life. But the facts are when sleep suffers, so do you.
Up until recently, there wasn’t a good way to work on getting your best sleep.
Most of what we did was built around guesswork, not hard data. And, the only way to get medically sound sleep analysis was to do a full-blown sleep study, which is expensive and time-consuming.
But now, wearables give us deep insights into sleep and what helps and harms our sleep.
So, as a user of one of these wearables I wanted to write a sleep series.
Because sleep is critical to health, and so many of you are likely getting poor sleep (or, could be getting even better sleep). I am going to show you a few things I’ve learned and possibly even encourage you to do a deep dive of your own on sleep.
What Are the Things that Truly Affect Sleep
Sleep can sometimes be paradoxical.
Like, what’s the difference between a day where you get good sleep and worse sleep?
And, how do you even quantify sleep?
Now depending on the wearable you’re using the quality of your sleep can be referred to as a “recovery” score, or a readiness level.
The most important thing to know is you could have data that helps you gamify your sleep.
Now, there are some general rules around sleep that almost all of you can expect to be true.
There are other things you might suspect to be true about your sleep that are either very impactful for you, or less so.
Like caffeine intake.
Some would assume because it’s a stimulant that using it daily is going to lessen the effect it has on your sleep. And yet it may be that consistent exposure to caffeine is sending you into less than desirable sleep states.
There are also measurements you can take away from a previous night’s sleep that could dictate your day.
For instance, your HRV (heart rate variability) from the night before could largely determine how hard you can push physical activity during the day. And, there may be a few things you do throughout the day leading up to your sleep, things that you’d assume are totally normal that may keep your HRV score lower than necessary.
As I said, I use the Oura ring for sleep tracking.
The reason I use the Oura ring is because it’s unobtrusive and the monthly fee related to it is lower than comparable wearables. I also think the EMF load on it is lower (I’ll talk about EMFs and sleep in this series).
What You Can Learn about the Oura Ring and Sleep Quality
One of the standout features of the Oura Ring is its accuracy.
If you plan to rely on a device for decisions around your health the more accurate the data, the better.
When you sleep the advanced sensors pick up on all kinds of signals. Things like your body temp, electrical impulses from your heart, your pulse, and more.
The sensors feed the data into algorithms that provide highly precise readings of sleep metrics. This accuracy has been validated by independent studies, which have found that the Oura Ring provides sleep data that is comparable to that obtained from polysomnography, the gold standard for sleep monitoring.
Plus the Oura Ring is also highly customizable.
Meaning if you’re only interested in looking at a particular report, or certain data, you can start to build reports that meet your needs.
What’s really helpful for the average person (and even me) is how it will also help you interpret the data it collects and give you personalized recommendations for how to get your health back on track for the day.
The Oura Ring’s phone app provides detailed explanations for all of its graphs and charts, as well as actionable recommendations to improve your balance of rest and activity.
For example, if your heart rate variability is lower than usual, it may be a sign of stress, and the platform may suggest a relaxation session. Similarly, if you got to bed on time but had less REM sleep than you should, the platform may suggest cutting back on caffeine.
Now when it comes to HRV, it’s one of the most important points of data to collect as it relates to sleep and I’ll explain why below.
HRV and Sleep (and how to improve both)
HRV isn’t something I talk about a lot, but that may change.
HRV stands for heart rate variability, which is the variation in the time interval between heartbeats. A healthy HRV is typically characterized by a high degree of variability, whereas a low HRV can indicate stress or other health issues.
HRV scores range from 0 to 200+.
But, it’s important to know, HRV variance is highly dependent on your physiology.
What I mean is one person’s HRV of 50 could reflect incredible recovery/readiness and indicate a great night’s sleep whereas another person’s score of 150 could indicate the same thing.
If you start to measure HRV don’t worry about other people’s HRV too much (kind of like a person who is 5’8 and 150 lbs shouldn’t try and compare their height and weight to a person who is 6’8 and 250 pounds).
That being said, you should always try and make your HRV score as high as possible.
As HRV relates to sleep the higher the score, generally the more restorative your sleep, and the lower your score the worse the sleep performance.
During periods of deep sleep, HRV tends to increase, whereas, during periods of light or restless sleep, HRV tends to decrease. By improving the overall quality of your sleep, you may be able to improve your HRV and promote better health.
Now several factors negatively impact HRV during sleep, including:
Sleep apnea (untreated) or other sleep disorders
Alcohol or drug use
Pain or discomfort that disrupts sleep
Environmental factors such as noise or light
- Emotional stress or anxiety
And several factors positively affect HRV during sleep.
Regular exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity can help improve overall health and increase HRV during sleep.
Stress reduction: Practices such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can help reduce stress levels and improve HRV during sleep.
Quality sleep: Ensuring adequate and restful sleep can improve HRV during sleep.
Good nutrition: Eating a balanced and nutrient-dense diet can help support overall health and improve HRV during sleep.
- Reduced alcohol consumption: Limiting alcohol intake can help improve HRV during sleep.
But those are just a few.
This is where something like an Oura ring may help you dial in best practices for better sleep.
For instance, you may discover intermittent fasting where you close your eating window 8 hours before bedtime offers significant improvements in HRV, or magnesium supplementation helps.
The point is you can use these wearables and a journal and start watching the data for a time you can begin to sleep better than you have, possibly ever.
And being that sleep is so important (and as a doctor) I think the fact you have options to get into the data of sleep from the comfort of your home is something you may not want to ignore.